Global attention behind the lens

Pallavi Sarkar only shoots during school holidays. “Summer vacations are when we make our longer trips. Otherwise it’s down to OMR on weekends.” The high school teacher and mother of one restricts her photography in accordance with her school schedule, but that hasn’t stopped her work from piquing the interest of the likes of National Geographic, New York Post and BBC.

The 37-year-old still remembers the first time she was approached by an international publication. It was BBC, asking about her photograph of a monkey.

Global attention behind the lens

“I was in Bandipur National Park with my family,” she recalls, “A young macaque had just landed on the hood of a vehicle in front of us. He was playing about, and at one point, he noticed the rear view mirror.” It was the little creature’s antics with its reflection in this mirror that made the ensuing photographs exceptionally endearing.

“He started by just looking at the mirror. And then, the way his expressions changed... first he just peeked a little, then he looked into it deeply, and finally, he just kissed his reflection,” she says, “I was in the vehicle behind. For the longest time, I couldn’t even see the macaque : just his reflection on that mirror. But I eventually found a vantage point.”

Global attention behind the lens

This was two years ago. Pallavi posted some of those photographs online, and soon enough, BBC came calling. Then came the New York Post, and finally, National Geographic. The latter featured Pallavi’s photographs in its ‘best bird photography’ shortlist two years in a row. “National Geographic focusses only on the birds, among all the photographs I take,” states Pallavi. It’s not difficult to see why: the sharp features and bright hues captured by her lens make for stunning visuals, be it an owl napping happily on a branch or a large bird dancing exuberantly closer to the ground, its wide wings spread to their full extent.

Global attention behind the lens

“I find bird photography extremely challenging and engaging. You need a different frame of mind as everything is so unpredictable. You don’t know what the subject will do next or how it will react. It’s a game of trust and patience, as it involves moving close to the subject to get a perfect image,” she adds.

Pallavi hasn’t received any technical training in photography — just her keen eye and her sturdy camera winging it together. However, she does have some mentors she is grateful to. Amid the broad photography community as a whole, she states, lensmen like Marzook Mohammed and Masood Hussain have provided her with the most guidance.

Global attention behind the lens

She also does as much as she can to educate herself, not only in photography, but also in wildlife. “I make it a point to read about the local fauna before I visit any place,” she says.

When she can’t find the time to travel long distances and chase exotic species, she finds plenty to explore closer home. “My favourite spots around town are the small stretches of backwaters behind Muttukadu Lake. A lot of migratory birds come there during the winters.”

Her enthusiasm is focussed completely behind the lens. The photographer barely has any pictures of herself, and even joined Instagram very recently. “I don’t need to be seen,” she says, “My photographs speak for me.”

Global attention behind the lens

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Printable version | Aug 8, 2020 3:12:50 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/monkey-business/article24934693.ece

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